How to Discover the Best Italian Riviera Towns

This spring, the Cinque Terre tourism board announced that it is looking into implementing a quota system in order to reduce the number of tourists who threaten to overwhelm the fragile coastline every summer. Now is the time to think about other Italian coastal destinations that offer the same combination of stunning scenery, fantastic beaches and delicious food. There are many beautiful coastal towns in the Italian Riviera that are far less crowded than those of the Cinque Terre. The Golfo Paradiso is where the most beautiful Italian Riviera towns are. But, this post will go deeper than that to show you some of its other treasures. We’ll be taking you from the well-known luxury spots like Portofino or Santa Margherita Ligure to the smaller towns filled with charm like Rapallo and Zoagli, Chiavari and Lavagna, and Sestri Levante. Without further ado, here’s a list of some of the most beautiful places on the “other Cinque Terre,” Italy’s Riviera.


Photo via Flickr, by Mr. Theklan.

This picturesque fishing village is one the most famous on the Italian Riviera. Its idyllic harbor houses luxury yachts and rickety fishing boat. It has been a popular place to visit in Italy since the 1950s. The European jet set still considers it one of the top places to visit in Italy. Portofino stands out from other “celebrities-vacation-here” towns due to the natural beauty of its harbor and the regional park that envelops it and extends to multiple towns along the coast – perfect for hiking on flower-lined trails! Castello Brown is the best spot to see this charming town. It’s a small museum and house that can be found in the hills above it.

You want to be with someone who might appear in a tabloid. You don’t mind paying more for food or accommodation based on your name recognition.

Santa Margherita Ligure

Photo via Flickr by Jeremy Sutcliffe.

Santa Margherita Ligure is the perfect place to experience authentic Italian holidays. This Italian Riviera Town is a fascinating blend of old-world charm and beachside resorts. It is also home to a deep-rooted fishing culture. You can find the highly-sought-after gambero red di Santa Margherita (“red shrimp of Santa Margherita”) on many menus. It is often served raw and is a must-try for foodies.

Stay here, if:You’re a foodie looking for the best seafood and fish dishes in the world. There aren’t many attractions or churches within walking distance. You’re more interested in a relaxed small-town vibe.


Photo via Flickr by Luca.

Rapallo is an Italian coastal town, but its most notable feature is the castle at its center. It was built over 450 years ago in order to defend Rapallo against pirate attacks.

Stay Here if: You want to explore Italy following in the footsteps your favorite writers.


Photo via Flickr by Joakim Olander.

This Italian Riviera town’s main attraction is its serenity. There are no chain hotels in this area. Instead, you will find charming bed and breakfasts and (loosely translated as “farm-stays”) along the coast and in hills in the hinterland. It’s the most quiet of all the towns, and it’s the best place to visit if you want to experience the Italian Riviera as the locals do. You can also shop here. Zoagli silk is widely exported around the globe. It is known for its hand-woven, high-quality weave and has been passed down through generations.

You are averse to tourist hotspots and want to experience quiet, small-town Italian life.


Photo via flickr by Vengomatto.

Chiavari is known for its beautiful water and proud heritage as the hometown of Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the founding fathers in unification of Italy. Garibaldi, one of the most prominent “fathers of fatherland”, fought in battles throughout Italy in the 19th Century to consolidate the peninsula under one flag. He was born in Nice in France. The town honors his heritage by naming streets and placing plaques around the area. There is also a large statue in Piazza Mateotti that commemorates his legacy. The pedestrian-friendly center of Chiavari, one of the best preserved “old towns” of the Italian Riviera, is also easily accessible.

Stay Here If: You are looking to get away from the traffic and noise caused by cars on narrow roads.


The legendary Torta dei Fieschi, which is the largest party on the Golfo del Tigullio hosts Lavagna. Since 1949, the six medieval districts of the town have gathered to celebrate the 1230 marriage ceremony of Opizzo Fieschi (Count of Lavagna) to Bianca de’ Bianchi di Siena. The “marriage announcement”, followed by the “bachelor party,” features live music and medieval games. The town is closed for the “wedding” on the next day. After the “wedding vows”, everyone receives one-half of a card in medieval Italian dialect. The rest of the card is then distributed to the guests.

Stay Here if You are going in August and would like to experience one of the most exciting and well-known street parties it has to offer.

Sestri Levante

The Baia del Silenzio in Sestri Levante | Photo via Flickr by Jiuguang Wang.

The Italian Riviera town of Pisa is situated on a peninsula which is divided into two beautiful bays. The Baia del Silenzio (“Bay of Silence”) is on one side. On the other side is Baia delle Favole (“Bay of Fairy Tales”) which is named after Hans Christian Andersen who lived in the tiny town for a short time in 1833. The unique location of the town, on a promontory that is surrounded by the bays above, has seen it gain popularity with tourists in recent years. Although it’s still not as glamorous and expensive as Portofino but it is gaining the same fame. It’s the prettiest town in our list, and for good reason.

Stay Here if

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